Yes, believe it or not, there have been some elections and referendums in America in the past 24 hours. They weren't big elections - some governors, some mayors and some proposals - but they do indicate George Bush's current support level.
To say that most of the nominations were won by Democrats is not accurate - rather, they were lost by Republicans.
New Jersey, a comfortable Democrat state, voted for a Democratic Governor (Jon Corzine). However, Virginia, which gave the Republican Bush a comfortable victory in 2004, narrowly voted for a Democratic Governor (Tim Kaine). In Minnesota, the pro-Bush mayor of St. Paul was thrown out of office by someone less enamored by the current President - ironically both were Democrats.
Local and State issues were naturally important, but elections such as these are very useful as a guide for current and future trends. Recent polls show that both Bush and the Republican party are "on the nose". 2005 has been a horror year for the Republican party, which has had to endure a number of scandals, the continuing issue of the Iraq war and the handling of Hurricane Katrina.
Every administration has its ups and downs in popularity - but what really matters is what happens on election day. Nevertheless, I think the GOP's situation is more than just a cyclical response from the electorate.
Take Virginia. Just south of the Mason-Dixon Line and the chosen location for the capital of the Confederate States during the civil war, it is nevertheless uncomfortably close to Washington and the North Eastern States. This means that Virginia, while still being a "Southern" (and therefore "conservative") state, it is also likely to be influenced by more liberal trends from the north - trends that would not be found in other southern states.
This election has essentially "moved" Virginia from being comfortably Republican into narrowly Democrat. That is of concern.
Of course, this sort of analysis doesn't always take into account the peculiarities of American politics. New York City, after all, has voted yet again for a Republican mayor despite the fact that the city (and the state) are solidly Republican in nature. There is only one explanation for this that makes any sense - New Yorkers are just different.
The mayoral race in St. Paul is an interesting result. The pro-Bush Democratic mayor was embarrassingly defeated 70% / 30% by a fellow Democrat. Minnesota, which thought Walter Mondale was a better bet than Reagan in 1984, has so many ties to Scandinavia that, if it seceeded from the union, it would probably model its welfare system on Sweden. All I'm saying here is that MN is one of the Democratic heartlands, and the fact that they threw out someone who liked Bush shows that Bush really is on the nose with Democrats.
These recent elections have not given the GOP any hope at all. All the information seems to indicate that a groundswell of unhappiness is beginning to take hold in American society - unhappiness with the President and the GOP.
It's my assertion, however, that this unhappiness will last a while - the reason being that the pressure that Bush and the GOP have been under lately has been more than just the odd peice of political grandstanding. There is a growing belief that the invasion of Iraq was a colossal mistake, based on dodgy evidence; The fallout from Hurricane Katrina has exposed cronyism in the government; The nomination of Harriet Miers to SCOTUS backfired on Bush and further eroded his credibility. Now it appears as though the CIA has been operating secret jails around the world where suspects are detailed without trial.
This negative perception of the GOP is unlikely to be solved by photos of Presidential nominees in tanks, or making people afraid that the Democrats put rapists on the streets. Eventually this sort of rhetoric, successful at first, begins to grind on people - especially when trust has been lost.
Remember, too, that Bush was, at one time, one of the most popular US presidents in history. 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq gave him massive poll boosts. But now it appears as though people have "caught on". They have realised they have been duped. So the polls, once stratospheric, are now plumbing the depths of the lithosphere. The longer the polls stay below 40% approval, the more disenchanted the people will be with the GOP.
From the One Salient Overlord Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.